An organization’s passion for dogs and how it impacts the community.
Ohio University and its bobcats are an extended family known for serving their community. Now, bobcats are serving another furry community in need.
Student organization Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs works with the local organization Friends of the Shelter Dogs and the Athens County Dog Shelter. One of the club’s main focuses is to bring as much awareness to the shelter as possible.
Maddy Mitchell, a junior studying nursing and president of Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs, joined the organization her freshman year. During that time, she was choosing between studying nursing and veterinarian work. Despite deciding against the latter, Mitchell knew she wanted to continue to help animals while in college.
“It’s a big stress reliever,” Mitchell said of working with Bobcats of the Shelter Dogs. “Being in the nursing program, I need that. So my sophomore year, I used to go to the shelter like three times a week to get my stress out.”
Caleigh Russell, a junior studying psychology and vice president of the club, also joined during her freshman year. Similar to Mitchell, Russell knew that she wanted to volunteer with animals and found the work therapeutic. “I’ve always had a spot in my heart for dogs specifically,” Russell said. “It’s really nice to hang out with [the dogs]. It’s kind of like therapy.”
Mitchell said the process to start working with the organization is easy. Members complete one session of shadowing and training before they can actually volunteer. Volunteer work includes walking the dogs and helping take care of the shelter. The club also holds fundraisers for the shelter, such as tabling events. These significantly help raise money, as Bobcats of the Shelters Dogs is a nonprofit organization.
“We don’t keep any of [the money raised],” Mitchell said. “Everything that we make at the tabling events or fundraisers that we do goes directly to the shelter. The shelter really gets excited when we hold these because they don’t really get a lot of money. … They do get donations, but the money is more for medical bills.”
One main event that the club looks forward to is Ohio U’s homecoming parade. During 2021’s parade in October, the organization brought eight dogs to walk with the volunteers and spread awareness. Both Mitchell and Russell agreed that their favorite memory with the club was walking in the homecoming parade. Russell said it is a fun experience for members to come together and spread awareness.
“You really get to walk the dogs and everyone’s so excited to see them,” Russell said. “It’s kind of a bonding experience for all of the members. … This year, we had a dog refusing to walk at a certain point. She was a good 50 pounds, and so we had one of our members literally carry her, and then they switched off.”
Mitchell said that it was hard to get the organization going last year due to COVID-19, so it was nice seeing all of the club’s members out together during this past homecoming parade. “Last year when we were online, [members] didn’t really get to do anything,” Mitchell said. “No tabling events [or] walking the dogs. So this year, it was fun seeing all of my members actually get out.”
Kylee Eminick, a recent dog adopter, found her dog, Pluto, during Ohio U’s 2019 homecoming parade. Her boyfriend was watching the parade and saw club volunteers walking Pluto. When her boyfriend sent her a picture of soon-to-be Pluto, she said, “That is my dog.” Eminick later attended a meet and greet with the dogs, where she saw Pluto again. She then decided to adopt him.
Eminick said that since adopting, she has significantly benefited from having Pluto around. Before getting him, Eminick suffered from panic attacks. She ended up getting Pluto to help ease her anxiety. “I used to have panic attacks three to five times a week,” Eminick said. “After I got [Pluto], I probably had like two a month, so it really helped a lot.”
Bobcats of the Shelters Dogs members work hard to provide permanent homes for dogs like Pluto. Mitchell said that there are still many dogs who need help finding homes, like Trinity, an 8-year-old hound mix, and Lucy, an 8-year-old black Labrador. They are the longest residents at the shelter and are dearly loved by the club members.
Both Mitchell and Russell hope to continue volunteering with animals in the future. Mitchell also encouraged all people to volunteer with the organization. “We like a lot of people [volunteering],” Mitchell said. “I love seeing my rosters and seeing so many individuals on it. So I always look forward to new members.”
People that have an interest in adopting a dog can call the Athens County Dog Shelter to schedule a meet and greet, or look up the Athens County Dog Shelter Petfinder to search for adoptable animals.